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Community of Sweetwater meets to plan for predicted Cline Shale oil boom growth

Published On: Jun 27 2013 10:29:48 PM CDT

Research has shown that the Cline Shale formation contains up to 3.6 million barrels of oil per square mile; that's 30-billion barrels total.

Thursday evening, interested West Texans gathered at the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium to learn more about what that could mean for their towns.

"You can't ignore it. It is going to impact your community whether you want it to or not," said Jeff Labnez-Hough with HDR Engineering. Labenz-Hough knows; he's been seen how booms affect communities while working with the Eagle-Ford and Baaken oil plays.

Several speakers brought their experiences to the table at Thursday's forum and speculated about how towns like Sweetwater could be affected by the Cline Shale.

"It's going to be a positive," said Vanessa Zientek of the State of Texas Office of the Comptroller. "It's definitely going to be good for the economy."

"Economically it's just a great opportunity for a city like Sweetwater," said Robert Reyes, who works for Halliburton in Odessa.

With the good, though, Labenz-Hough said as new businesses and people move in, towns can change for the better or worse.

He said citizens should be part of the process if they want to preserve their towns.

"It's your decision to make but if you don't make it others will come in and make it for you," said Labenz-Hough. He's referring to decisions such as whether the town will allow man camps or drilling within the city limits. "If [citizens] get involved everyone will look back 20 years from now and say man this was a good thing."

Economic developer Ken Baker said they're doing what they can to be ready in case the boom is as big as everyone says it could be.

"It's not going to happen overnight," said Baker. "It could happen but there are no guarantees. That's why it's called speculation."

Becker said twelve new businesses have already moved into Nolan County. One of those employed 85 people.